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Arun could finally catch his breath. He managed to arrive before the professor in charge of the final round. And he only had to go through several doctors ordering him to stop and go to rest. And a metal door. Oops. Hopes he doesn't have to pay for that... for real. But it was needed for him to reach the testing chambers before it was over and it looked like he had barely made it.
A rigid face overlooked him as he was recovering. It was the face of an old woman, the one whom he thought was the examiner.
"And who might you be, student? I don't recall seeing you in my exam. "
* pant * " I'm sorry " * pant * , " m'am, my name is Arun ", * pant * " I am a bit late, ran into some trouble... "
Weird, Arun though his fatigue was lasting too much... usually he would recover quicker. * Now that I think about it I ran quite a bit faster just now as well. *
The old woman inspected Arun from top to bottom. It didn't take a detective to figure out what was going on, judging by the fact that Arun still wore hospital clothes. " I can see that. I assume the doctors gave you leave, yes? "
Arun smiled awkwardly "Of course..."
" Good then. To be frank, the test ended moments ago and under normal circumstances I wouldn't let anyone late take it. "
Arun could feel his heart stop.
" That said, I have heard of a particular incident happen to a particular student. I understand the extenuating circumstances, you may enter. "
Arun took a turn trough the now open doors. The dim-lit room was not pleasantly decorated, in fact it was not decorated at all, giving off the the feeling of a prison cell more than a testing chamber. In front of the door was a control panel most likely linked to the three levitating platforms in the center of the room.
The equipment was top- notch. He was surprised to find such devices here. He only heard rumors about new experimental devices made that could estimate ones amount of ki. Even so, he could partially tell how they worked from a glance.
" Hmm... so you estimate the level of cultivation by evaluating the process of meditating?... "
The woman raised a brow:
" I see you have discussed with prior contestants. What other details have they told you? "
" Oh, I've just woke up 15 minutes ago, I've talked a bit with my friends since but not about this."
" Is that so... "
Judging by his hospital clothing and late arrival it didn't seem like he was lying. But realizing the machines purpose after just one glimpse?
* Seems like I've met an interesting youngling. *
" You are right, this machine can tell the level of cultivation judging by the meditating process. But enough with that, we are long overdue already. "
" Understood... " Arun said sadly since he just lost the privilege to explore such a creation. There were not many devices in the world that combine the old with the new such as this one, not since the old technology was unable to protect humanity and left a bit of trauma behind.
However, there was something he forgot to consider while marveling at the machine. This change was very detrimental to him.
The old, traditional method implied circulating your ki within a pillar. The pillars levels would than rise in accordance to the amount imputed. You can imagine how, for Arun, who was a specialist in concentrating ki, he would be beneficial. He would have used this to get a result two levels better than his actual cultivation! Would have, that is.
" Take your place on the first platform. Ok, systems are ready, now you can start meditating. Ah, and a word of advice, don't try to force it. The more relaxed and natural the meditation is, the better the results. "
" Ok, got it. "
Arun was getting a bit nervous at this point as he finally realized his plans were thwarted. Quick and panicked thoughts popped trough his head, trying to decide the best way to getting the best results however they were soon discarded, and finally, only one remained.
* This is quite unfortunate but this is the present now. The only thing I can do now is try my best... well, at least I got to see this cool prototype. *
With Arun's mind now eased of negative thoughts he fell in a state of meditation. Sensing the change, the machine emitted a faint golden ray which preceded to thoroughly scan him. After a good few minutes the ray disappeared and a loud beeping sound took its place.
An all-too-familiar feeling took hold of Arun as his head started throbbing. Being forcibly woken up from meditation was unpleasant to say the least.
" Au... auch.. and I thought my morning alarm was bad... "
" Can't help it. We are working on a less rudimentary way of pulling people out of cultivation but for now this will do. You endured it quite nicely if I might say. Most of the students ended up screaming, some even cried. "
" Huh... It is pretty painful but I've been trough worst. "
* Such young kid says such horrible things... yet he seems honest and not just bragging. He must have been trough a lot. But... *
" Ms Examiner " Arun was growing more impatient by the second. He didn't give it much thought at the time because he was in a hurry but did the fact that he was faster mean that he had a breakthrough? He could even feel that he could summon more ki." What is my result? "
The examiner took one last look at the screen and sighed. " Begging of early human stage. "
This came like down on Arun like an anvil. Such a low score? was there a mistake? he definitely felt stronger... and he entered early human stage 2 months ago! He was definitely higher than beginning.
" Miss, I don't mean to be rude, but may I ask what the margin of error is on this prototype? "
" Kid, the margin of error is insignificant. To be honest your scan took much longer than expected so I took the liberty to make a couple more. I took 6 tests in total but each result ended lower than the previous. The last one was almost ki gathering stage. If you ask me, rather than the machine, there is something wrong with you."
The already wounded Arun got yet another blow.
" I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and mark you for the first test. Now, where do you plan to apply with these results? "
" The cultivation high-schools... I'll be a forger. " Arun instinctively muttered.
Another sigh, this time deeper. " With these results none will accept you. Not even if you aced the previous exam. Better go try your best in a normal school and get a decent job.
After continuous attacks, such a remark from a honorable professor, this was the final nail in the coffin for Arun... someone that dis not know him at all might say that.
Every obstacle, every hit, every person that has tried to drag him down from the begging to the present to the future only serve to make his blood boil, to make him want to prove that they were all wrong, to strengthen his resolve. This was no different.
Arun bowed " Professor, thank you very much for allowing me take the exam, and thank you for the advice, but I will be following my own path. Even if no schools accept me I will still become a forger. The best of the best. "